Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination. This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.
A periodontal probe
(small dental instrument) is gently used to measure the sulcus (pocket
or space) between the tooth and the gums. The depth of a healthy sulcus
measures three millimeters or less and does not bleed. The periodontal
probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As
periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.
Your dentist or
hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation,
tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category
Gingivitis is the
first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and its toxin by-products
irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.
Plaque hardens into
calculus (tartar). As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the
gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the
gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become
very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone
loss may be present.
The teeth lose more
support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament continue to be
destroyed. Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose
and may be lost. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be
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